Mystery Mondays: Edith Maxwell on Write What You Know – Plus Some

Welcome once again to Mystery Mondays. Today we have the pleasure of hearing from award-winning author Edith Maxwell.  Find out what she has to say about finding a dead body in a greenhouse…

Write What You Know – Plus Some by Edith Maxwell

I’m delighted to be a guest here today.  Mulch Ado About Murder, my fifth Local Foods Mystery, is coming out soon, so it’s a good time to talk about the origins of the story and the research I do, too.

The series is set on an organic farm with a group of  locavores – local foods enthusiasts – as recurring characters. The series has its roots in the fertile soil of the farm I formerly owned and operated in the northeast corner of Massachusetts. It was the smallest certified organic farm in Essex County. I’d had organic gardens for years, but wanted to work on a slightly larger scale, so it made sense to start this project when my sons were young and I was taking a few years off my hi-tech career.

When I started to write crime fiction, it made sense for me to use my knowledge of small-scale farming as backdrop to the mysteries. Being older and not quite as energetic as I was then, I love immersing myself in the world of growing without having to do all the hard work! One of my little boys is now a twenty-eight year old permaculture farmer who has kept chickens, so I have a current-day consultant on the books when I need one.

Of course, we authors don’t only write what we know. I might have begun with a modest organic farm located in a town much like the one mine was in, but the imagination takes over soon after.  My farmer Cam Flaherty is taller, much younger, and more of an introvert than me, and she’s also single. I didn’t have a Locavore Club knocking on my barn door fervently asking to sign up for my farm share program. And I certainly never found a dead body in my greenhouse – nor would I have attempted to solve the mystery if I had.

But that’s what fiction is for, right? I’ve been happy writing a book a year  about farming for Kensington Publishing, and along the way acquired a few other multi-book contracts, too. Called to Justice, my latest historical Quaker Midwife Mystery, released a month ago, and When the Grits Hit the Fan, Country Store Mystery number three (written as Maddie Day), came out only ten days before it. I’m living my dream writing about what I know – plus some.

Who is Edith Maxwell?

MaxwellCrop2017 double Agatha-nominated and national best-selling author Edith Maxwell writes the Quaker Midwife Mysteries and the Local Foods Mysteries; as Maddie Day she writes the Country Store Mysteries and the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries. Her award-winning short crime fiction has appeared in many juried anthologies and journals, and she serves as President of Sisters in Crime New England.

A fourth-generation Californian and former tech writer, farmer, and doula, Maxwell now writes, cooks, gardens (and wastes time as a Facebook addict) north of Boston with her beau and three cats. She blogs at WickedCozyAuthors.com, Killer Characters, and with the Midnight Ink authors. Find her on Facebook, twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and at www.edithmaxwell.com.

Mulch Ado About Murder HCMulch Ado About Murder

It’s been a hot, dry spring in Westbury, Massachusetts. As organic farmer Cam Flaherty waits for much-needed rain, storm clouds of mystery begin to gather. Once again, it’s time to put away her sun hat and put on her sleuthing cap when a fellow farmer is found dead in a vat of hydroponic slurry—clutching a set of rosary beads. Showers may be scarce this spring, but there’s no shortage of suspects, including the dead woman’s embittered ex-husband, the Other Man whose affair ruined their marriage, and Cam’s own visiting mother. Lucky for Cam, her nerdy academic father turns out to have a knack for sleuthing. Will he and Cam be able to clear Mom’s name before the killer strikes again?

Mystery Mondays: Christina Hoag on Know Your Genre

This week on Mystery Mondays we have Christina Hoag, author of SKIN OF TATTOOS, and GIRL ON THE BRINK. I met Christina through this blog, so it’s pleasure to have her on as a guest. She’ll share her experience about genres and why and author needs to know where their novel fits.

The Importance of Genre

By Christina Hoag

One of those writing clichés tells aspiring authors to “write the book you want to read.” That may be true, but make sure your book fits into an accepted genre or no one else will read it.

As I was writing my noir thriller Skin of Tattoos, I never gave a thought as to what kind of a book it would be, as in what genre it fell into. After all, a good story is a good story, right? Not quite. As I later painfully discovered, genre is critical. It is how publishers market your book. If your book doesn’t fit neatly into a category, they don’t how to sell it and guess what, they won’t buy it.

Luckily, genre didn’t seem to matter in getting a literary agent. After much querying I landed a good agent, after first signing with a bad one. But then the agent had to figure out how to pitch the book. Was it noir, which involves telling an inside crime story from the point of view of the criminal? Well, yes. My novel is set in the gang underworld of Los Angeles and is told in first-person by a gang member protagonist. Or was it a thriller, which involves escalating tension between two characters as they battle over high stakes? That also loosely applied to my book as Mags, the narrator, is in a power and revenge struggle with his rival homeboy Rico for leadership of the gang.

Then there was my style. Amid the gang slang, Spanish phrases and occasional profanity, there was a lot of lyrical prose that wasn’t the usual style for a thriller, plus Mags’s character has an arc. In the end, the agent described it as a “literary thriller.” Although I hadn’t thought of myself as a thriller writer before, I thought that was an accurate enough description and out the book went.

The rejections rolled in. There was high praise for the writing, story elements, originality, and so on but the most pervasive comment was “who would be the audience for this book?” In other words, “literary thriller” wasn’t cutting it, especially coming from an unknown author. My agent consoled me, saying these were rejections based on “business decisions,” which was much better than having the book rejected for story reasons. Still, I saw that my book was too different, too original. I lamented that to my agent, who responded “publishers do want original stuff, but at the same time they want the same stuff. The same, but different.” Not very helpful.

Eventually, she ran out of places to submit and I got my manuscript back, but I wasn’t going to give up on it. I knew it was a good book. Top publishing editors had said so. I just needed to find someone to take a chance on it. I revised it yet again, cutting out about 13,000 words, including stuff that both agents had me add and that I now saw went nowhere. In fact, the additions didn’t make much sense and simply made the manuscript too long.

I sent the tightened version out to small publishers that accepted unagented submissions. The same thing happened. It was praised, but it didn’t fit in their lists. I started to despair then a publisher, Martin Brown Publishing, offered me a contract on it.

Skin of Tattoos finally was released in August and has been well received. Several readers told me the book is “unlike anything I’ve read before.” I take that as a compliment, unfortunately the mainstream publishing industry doesn’t.

I had another genre problem with my second novel, a YA called Girl on the Brink I was calling it a “contemporary romance,” but it’s not a romance because it’s about teen dating violence. Romance novels must have a happy-ever-after ending, which mine does not. But then the genre gods blessed me. I discovered my book did have a built in category: “contemporary social issues.” Since it contains a lot of suspense and escalating tension between the protagonist and the guy she fell for, I also describe it as a “romantic thriller,” which sounds like a less heavy read.

As for my third book, I’m making it a thriller after another discovery: I have to have an author brand because I’m expected to keep writing the same genre to build readership. So although I never set out to write thrillers, that’s now become my brand by default. Moral of the story: Know your genre.

WHO IS CHRISTINA HOAG

ChristinaHoagAuthorHeadshotChristina Hoag is a former journalist for the Miami Herald and Associated Press who’s been threatened by a murderer, had her laptop searched by Colombian guerrillas and phone tapped in Venezuela, hidden under a car to evade Guatemalan soldiers, posed as a nun to get inside a Caracas jail, interviewed gang members, bank robbers, thieves and thugs in prisons, shantytowns and slums, not to forget billionaires and presidents, some of whom fall into the previous categories. Kirkus Reviews praised Christina as a “talented writer” with a “well crafted debut” in Skin of Tattoos (Martin Brown Publishing, 2016), a gangland thriller. Her YA thriller Girl on the Brink (Fire and Ice, 2016) was named to Suspense Magazine’s Best of 2016 YA list. She also writes nonfiction, co-authoring Peace in the Hood: Working with Gang Members to End the Violence (Turner Publishing, 2014), a groundbreaking book on violence intervention used in several universities. Christina makes her home in Santa Monica and lives on the web at http://www.christinahoag.com.

SKIN OF TATTOOS

Los Angeles homeboy Magdaleno is paroled from prison after serving time on a gun poSkinofTattoosCoverssession frameup by a rival, Rico, who takes over as gang shotcaller in Mags’s absence. Mags promises himself and his Salvadoran immigrant family a fresh start, but he can’t find either the decent job or the respect he craves from his parents and his firefighter brother, who look at him as a disappointment. Moreover, Rico, under pressure to earn money to free the Cyco Lokos’ jailed top leader and eager to exert his authority over his rival-turned-underling, isn’t about to let Mags get out of his reach. Ultimately, Mags’s desire for revenge and respect pushes him to make a decision that ensnares him in a world seeded with deceit and betrayal, where the only escape from rules that carry a heavy price for transgression is sacrifice of everything – and everyone – he loves.

GIRL ON THE BRINK

GirlOnTheBrinkCoverHe was perfect. At first. The summer before senior year, Chloe starts an internship as a reporter at a local newspaper. While on assignment, she meets Kieran, a quirky aspiring actor. Chloe becomes smitten with Kieran’s charisma and his ability to soothe her soul, torn over her parents’ impending divorce. But as their bond deepens, Kieran becomes smothering and flies into terrifying rages. He confides in Chloe that he suffered a traumatic childhood, and Chloe is moved to help him. If only he could be healed, she thinks, their relationship would be perfect. But her efforts backfire, and Kieran turns violent. Chloe breaks up with him, but Kieran pursues her relentlessly to make up. Chloe must make the heartrending choice between saving herself or saving Kieran, until Kieran’s mission of remorse turns into a quest for revenge.

Mystery Mondays: Jennifer Berg On Being An Organized Writer

Today on Mystery Mondays, we have Jennifer Berg, Author of The Hatbox Murders published by Barking Rain Press.

The Importance of Being Organized by Jennifer Berg

Writing can be a lot of fun, but my biggest tip for serious writing is to be organized. If you’re looking for a publisher, keep a log of all your leads, contacts, and submissions. When researching a book, keep extensive notes and have them organized in a way that works for you. Personally, I work from detailed plot outlines, and I take a few minutes each day (okay, most days) to log how many hours I spent on each project, and what sort of work I did (research, outlining, draft #1, 2, 3… editing, marketing, etc.).

Not only does this help me to realistically plan my workload, and keep my work-life balance in check, it’s also reassuring to watch the hours accumulate as I near each milestone. Writing is fun, but it really is a lot of work, too.

Who Is Jennifer Berg?

Jennifer Berg 2017_20Jennifer Berg grew up on a small peninsula on Puget Sound where she dug for clams, built her own rafts and camped in a tree house, a tool shed, and a teepee. She attended the University of Washington where she majored in History. When she’s not concocting new mysteries, Jennifer spends her time painting watercolors, gardening herbs and succulents, and knitting odd creations. She currently lives in San Diego with her husband and their Appenzeller Sennenhund.

 

The Hatbox Murders

Seattle, 1956

HatboxCoverInspector Michael Riggs doesn’t believe in “women’s intuition,” but when head stenographer Margaret Baker insists that her friend and co-worker, Ruby Pike, most certainly did not jump off a bridge to end her life, Riggs reluctantly agrees to re-examine the closed suicide case.

He quickly learns that Ruby’s mousy cousin hater her while her rich uncle adored herm showering Ruby with expensive gifts. Her shady boyfriend had good reason to be ride of Ruby, but he also has an alibi for the night of her death. Add to that a tight-lipped boss facing financial ruin, a jealous wife, and a bitter landlady whose heirloom jewelry was pilfered, and it doesn’t take long for Riggs to realize that Margaret’s feminine intuition might be right.

Unfortunately for Riggs, the only blues he can find are a gold watch with a cryptic inscription, a photo of a missing dress, and a pink hatbox. As the police chief starts to boil over, Riggs decides to call on Victoria Bell, an alluring Prussian librarian with a knack for solving crimes who has helped him with other cases. But this time, Victoria id determined to stay out of the limelight. She only agrees to help with the case if her assistance remains a secret.

But when the murderer strikes again, Victoria realizes that she’ll have to risk the spotlight if she’s going to help Riggs catch the murderer.

Thanks for reading…

 

 

 

Learn How To Self-Edit #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

Nano Blog and Social Media Hop2Thank you, Raimey Gallant for organizing the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop. Today is day one of this new series, and I’m very excited to be part of it.

This is a monthly blog hop on the theme of resources/learning for authors: posts related to the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, blogging tips for authors, reviews of author-related products, anything that an author would find helpful.

To kick off this series, I’d like to talk about becoming your own self-editor.

To continue hopping through other great blogs in the monthly #AuthorToolboxBlogHop or to join, just hop on over to Ramey Gallant!

Why Learn How To Self-Edit?

With the advent of self-publishing, there is no one stopping a writer from publishing poor fiction that does not sell.

So what can new fiction writers do to ensure they’ve written a story that works and is ready to share?

They need to complete a big-picture story edit and rewrite the first draft.

Science fiction novelist Michael Crichton agrees when he says: “Great books are not written–they’re rewritten.   

But big-picture editing and rewriting is hard and can take months to complete.

Today, I’ll give you a place to start with a focus on plot. 

Plot describes the events that take place in your story. The events occur in a sequence, and that sequence forms the structure of your novel. You’ll most likely have a main plot and one or two subplots. Your protagonist (main character) follows the main plot. Secondary characters follow the subplots.

Your job as a writer is to evaluate how you’ve written the plot (and subplots) and to rewrite until you’ve created a compelling story for your readers. Then you can move on to word choice, style, and copyediting.

Your plot is made up of scenes. If you make each scene great, have each scene flow from one to the next in a way that makes sense to the reader, and pay attention to the key elements of fiction for each scene, you’ll end up with a great novel.

The first element under PLOT to evaluate is the purpose of the scene. The purpose of the scene must relate to the overall story. If it’s not driving the story forward, ask yourself why you included the scene in your novel.

Once you know the purpose of each scene, you want to test how the flow of your novel is working. To do this, keep track of how you enter and exit each scene.

For entering each scene, do you:

  • Vary the way you enter each scene in your draft?
  • Have a hook that draws the reader into the scene?
  • Anchor the reader in terms of point of view, setting, and timing?

For exiting each scene, do you:

  • Vary the way you end each scene?
  • Have a hook that makes the reader want to start the next scene?
  • Use a technique that connects the current scene to the following scene?

Answer each of the above questions for every scene, use the answers to rewrite the scenes, and you’ll be sure to improve your story.

More Self-Editing Advice

BIG-PICTURE EditingIf you’re looking for more help on self-editing download the free eBook, BIG-PICTURE Editing And The Key Elements Of Fiction and learn how big-picture editing is all about evaluating the major components of your story. We call these components the Key Elements Of Fiction.  Our eBook shows you how to use the key elements of fiction to evaluate your story and become your own big-picture editor.

Interested In An Automated Approach To Big-Picture Self-Editing?

Feedback Innovations (which I happen to be the CEO of) is building the Feedback app .

Feedback is the first web app to help fiction writers evaluate their own work with a focus on story, not words.

With Feedback, you can focus on plot, character, and setting. You can evaluate on a scene-by-scene basis or on overall novel structure. Feedback will show you the most important structural elements to work on first.

Feedback will guide you through the rewriting process by asking you questions specific to your manuscript, enabling you to evaluate your own story.

Feedback helps you visualize your manuscript. Forget about yellow stickies or white boards. Feedback will draw character arcs, provide reports on scene evaluation, and show your rewriting progress.

Happy editing and thanks for reading…

Mystery Mondays: Author Garry Ryan on Keeping A Novel Relevant

I know a secret! Today on Mystery Mondays, Garry Ryan, best-selling author of the Detective Lane Mysteries, is here to talk about keeping a novel relevant. But that’s not the secret.

Do you want to know the secret? Of course you do.

The next novel in the Detective Lane series will be published by NeWest Press this year! The title:  MATANZAS.

The blurb is below…Maybe if we’re lucky, Garry will give us more details on the release.

And now over to Garry.

Keeping a Novel Relevant by Garry Ryan 

How do you make a book relevant at release? A few years can pass after the process of writing, submitting and editing is completed. It can become a bit of a challenge to remain current.

As a result, I look for plausible predictions of what’s likely to happen. I also watch trends and think about outcomes.

Matanzas might work as an example here. It’s set in Cuba and Calgary. Before writing the novel there had been whisperings about Cuba and the US normalizing relations. After the book was written and accepted by the publisher, the US reopened its embassy in Havana. It was necessary to keep this likely scenario in mind while developing characters and plot so as not to make any obvious errors.

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I’ve also been watching the changes happening in Latin America while working on novels exploring the relationship between Canada and Mexico. It’s really about seeing how the old, the new and our cultures interact during difficult times. Carrying a camera documents these changes, which comes in handy when writing scenes.

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Predicting the future is a fool’s game, but considering a variety of outcomes and how they might legitimize or compromise a novel is worth considering.

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Matanzas

Matanzas Cover copyHis psyche still reeling from having to kill a criminal in the line of duty, Calgary’s Detective Lane flies to Cuba to celebrate the wedding of his beloved niece. While there, though, he finds himself drafted by the local police into investigating the murder of a Canadian tourist.

Upon his return to Calgary, links between this incident and the deaths of local elderly pensioners start to make themselves known, drawing Lane and his partner Nigel Li further into a web of conspiracy, politics and big money.

Garry Ryan’s award-winning, best-selling mystery series continues with all the intrigue, good humour and mochaccinos that fans have come to expect.

Who is Garry Ryan?

 

 

Since 2004 Garry Ryan has published nine novels with NeWest Press. The second, The Lucky Elephant Restaurant, won a 2007 Lambda Literary Award. In 2009, Ryan was awarded Calgary’s Freedom of Expression Award.

Mystery Mondays: Patricia F. Pagan On Writing In A Busy Life.

Welcome, Patricia F. Pagan. First, congratulations to Patricia on being a new mom. How she finds to time be a mom, write and work is a mystery..one and we’ll soon learn about.

Writing When You’re Busy by Patricia F. Pagan.

The first collection that I have curated since becoming a working adoptive mom, Approaching Footsteps, was published by feminist publisher Spider Road Press in late November. I am very proud and pretty gosh-darned tired. I am so pleased that readers are enjoying the four unique and suspenseful novellas, and I’m happy and that I am finally finding a path as a writer/parent of a young child. I have to beat back some tree limbs, and watch out for garter snakes, but the path stands firm beneath my feet.

Writers need time alone to create. Many writers are introverts. And, ask any parent, alone time gets chiseled out of sleep time. Whether at 5 am or 10 pm, it’s only when the kids sleep that mama is truly free to create. Taking alone time to invite the muse also means one has fewer hours in which to connect with other parents, a key to fighting isolation, and to getting tips for dealing with toddler temper tantrums in a quiet library. I met a writer and actress through my church who also has a toddler- and it has been great to commiserate in person, but also via email when we feel we need precious time to be alone. Other creative moms get it. They never say platitudes like “the days are long, but the years are short,” they empower you to take the time to write, because you’ll be happier, and then you’ll be a better parent.

In her recent piece, “For Writers Who Are Also The Mothers of Small Children,” Marcy Dermansky writes, “I want to hug every last mother-writer I know with a small child. I want to tell them it will be ok.”

It’s hard not to feel guilty when you choose an hour with your characters over an hour with your child. However, as writers, our words and tenacity define us. We are role modeling that creativity and doggedness matter. That stories merit time and attention. That fiction can be magic.

As long as I spend as much time as I can reading stories to my child, I know that it’s OK to take some time to craft them.

WHO IS Patricia Flaherty Pagan?

Patricia Flaherty Pagan loves writing and reading about complex female characters. She is the author of Trail Ways Pilgrims: Stories and the writer of award winning literary and crime short stories such as “Bargaining” and “Blood-red Geraniums.” She edited Up, Do: Flash Fiction by Women Writers. She teaches flash fiction writing at Writespace in Houston. After earning her MFACW from Goddard College, she founded Spider Road Press to champion writing by and/or about strong women. Learn more about her recent release, Approaching Footsteps, and her upcoming events on her website: http://www.patriciaflahertypagan.com. Follow her on Twitter : @PFwriteright

WHAT DOES Patricia Write?

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00068]Four compelling novellas add up to one suspenseful and entertaining collection.

Enjoy suspenseful tales with unexpected twists? These four compelling, unique novellas

by women will keep you guessing.

*Best-selling novelist Donna Hill spins a gripping tale of desperation and danger in “136 Auburn Lane.”

*Author Jennifer Leeper puts her own spin on noir fiction in “The Reiger File.”

*In “A Night with Kali,” writer & scholar Rita Banerjee blends a story of two unlikely allies trapped in a monsoon with a tale of murder and magic.

*In the historical novella “Brave Enough to Follow,” debut writer Megan Stuessloff tells the story of an interracial couple and the deadly price that must be paid for freedom.

*Editor Patricia Flaherty Pagan curates these rich narratives and the highlights of Spider Road Press’ recent flash fiction contests.

5% for Healing: Five percent of the proceeds from this collection benefit rape crisis and veterans’ charities.

 

Camp NaNoWriMo: 50,000 words in 1 month?

This year, I decided I would participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November. When I checked out the process, I discovered there is such a thing as Camp NaNoWriMo that happens in July.

As far as I can tell the only difference is that in July, the participating author can select the word count. In November, everyone tries to write 50,000 words in a month.

For Camp NaNoWriMo, I chose 50,00 words just to see if I could do it.

Here are my stats from yesterday:

Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 7.49.39 PM

I’m usually a panster, but writing 50,000 words in one month without an outline seemed intimidating, so before July 1st, I created an outline. Each day I write from the outline instead of having to come up with an idea.

Here are the projections:

Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 7.49.45 PM

I have to say, the process is motivating me to write. I’ve never written to a word count before, and it’s amazing that just by publicly saying what my word count goal is, I find the time magically appears when I can sit down and write.

So can I make it? I’ll let you now…

Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 7.49.51 PM

Now I have to get back to writing and put 1,529 words on the page today.

Thanks for reading…